Things have changed on Kaua‘i over the past few weeks. With the island stepping back into the Safe Travels program on April 5, visitors are once again flocking back to enjoy Kaua‘i’s beaches and hiking trails.
It’s bringing a much-needed flow of lifeblood back to some businesses, and also adding plenty of traffic to both highways and grocery-store aisles, beaches and local lunch spots.
And after nearly a year of Kaua‘i being essentially closed to most trans-Pacific travel, it’s a change that residents can feel in the air. For some, it’s a saving grace and a rejuvenating step toward building up a “post-pandemic normal.” For others, it’s an overwhelming and unwelcome invasion.
While Kaua‘i residents might have differing opinions on whether or not the island should have rejoined the Safe Travels plan, many have expressed the same underlying feeling of trepidation toward the change that’s afoot. A lot of it has to do the fact that Kaua‘i residents are still struggling to get back on their feet in so many ways.
It’s not just pandemic-related,.
Access to the North Shore is limited right now, and that’s putting a frustrating cramp into the routines of many residents. Heavy rains triggered multiple landslides at an area now known as Hanalei Hill last month, and the state Department of Transportation is still working to clear and stabilize the only highway that connects that part of Kaua‘i with the rest of the island.
So, residents are navigating a tight schedule of access through Kuhio Highway to coordinate errands, commute to and from work, or get their children to and from school.
That process is further complicated by people who are unaware of the access schedule being turned around or jamming up traffic as residents try to go about their daily lives.
In addition to a few real roadblocks on the highway, Kaua‘i is still reeling from a year of economic downturn. On a weekly basis, families are still lining up outside food-distribution events. With some businesses bringing a few workers back, those families are now having to re-balance their lives to include childcare or eldercare.
Three years ago in April, a “rain bomb” parked over Kaua‘i’s North Shore. Flooding triggered a series of landslides, similar to the one at Hanalei Hill, but further north — from Waikoko to Wainiha. The landslides closed Kuhio Highway from April 2018 through June 2019.
An access schedule was established, and residents experienced more than a year of secluded life on the North Shore, without visitors.
When the road reopened in 2019, the Hawai‘i Tourism Board partnered with local residents and organizations to create The Aloha Pledge, a code of conduct that gives everyone a standard by which to approach and enjoy Kaua‘i.
The pledge outlines 15 ways to respectfully enjoy Kaua‘i, and is crafted to educate residents and visitors alike.
It promotes respectful conversation, proper engagement with nature, using legal and licensed visitor accommodations, cleaning up trash and the protecting Kaua‘i’s special places.
For visitors, The Aloha Pledge provides an outline of ways to have the best experience on Kaua‘i, and the ways visitors can respect the local culture.
For residents, The Aloha Pledge provides a good reminder of how to treat each other and the island upon which we go about our daily lives.
The Aloha Pledge
• I pledge to always live the spirit of aloha as I visit your special home;
• I will take time to learn about the Hawaiian people and culture;
• I will preserve and protect your home and will engage with the people, places and wildlife in a kind and respectful way;
• I will give fish and other wildlife space. I understand feeding marine life can damage their health and disrupt behavior;
• I will stay off the reef. I understand that even barely brushing coral can kill an entire colony;
• I will give space to the fishermen so I do not scare the catch away. I understand the fishermen feed their families this way;
• I will only use “reef-safe” sunscreens and bug repellents, free of oxybenzone and parabens to avoid ocean and water contamination;
• I will only stay in legal, licensed visitor accommodations;
• I will look for welcoming signage letting me know that an area is public and safe, and I will always obey appropriate signage for the safety of myself and others;
• I will buy flowers and produce from the store or a farmers’ market and will not pick them from someone’s yard;
• I will clean and decontaminate all of my footwear and hiking gear with 70% alcohol or a 10% bleach solution to prevent rapid ‘ohi‘a death and stop other invasive species from spreading;
• I will protect special places by never geo-tagging them on social media;
• I will always leave places the way I found them;
• I will pack my trash and will even pick up the trash of others I may pass along the way;
• I will always share aloha, kindness and respect as I enjoy this special experience with others.
Take a look at The Aloha Pledge at alohapledge.com.
The Garden Island